Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

Comment Swaying public perception (Score 2) 315

I've often wondered how much our media actually sways public perception.

To take an example, consider the TV series "West Wing", which ran from from 2000 - 2007. This was during most of the Bush administration.

In the series, the president (played by Martin Sheen) was powerful, smart, compassionate, and likeable. The character was a Nobel Prize laureate in economics(*), and pretty-much the pinnacle of personal achievement.

For comparison, note that Dennis Kucinich brought 35 articles of impeachment against Bush at the end of his term, including taking the country into war for no just cause.

(I don't bring this up to cast aspersions on the man or party, only to show that there was widespread disapproval with some justification at the time.)

I can't help but wonder if peoples' perception of the president's actions were somehow biased because of the "West Wing" series. It was highly popular, and the character of the president (in the series) was one who garnered a lot of respect.

Would the public have been less tolerant of Bush without "West Wing" running concurrently with his term?

I wonder what other effects that TV and entertainment might have on the population. Does everyone's view of police stem from CSI, Hawaii 5-0, and Hill Street Blues? We see all the time how police risk their lives to protect the innocent, for example... on TV. Do people use their TV viewing as the basis for their assessment of reality?

(*) And in one particular moment during the show, someone asked the president about NAFTA and whether opening up free trade would hurt America, and Martin Sheen (as the president) stated something like "every economist thinks it would be to our benefit".

Comment Can Verizon Stealth cookies be spoofed? (Score 2) 80

Now that Verizon has hooked up with AOL to share cookie data and personal information, it sure would be nice if the Verizon stealth cookies could be deletable.

Just a quick question, can the browser insert its own Verizon stealth cookie into the request URL?

And if that can be done, can it be used to poison the data, or even crash the Verizon tracking system?

Comment Current research in cold fusion (Score -1, Troll) 186

I just finished this series of videos from SRI that gives a good overview of current(-ish) research in cold fusion. It's an easy set of videos to watch, and highly informative.

To summarize, SRI and others have gotten cold fusion to happen, with byproducts one would expect from a nuclear reaction. Their experiments generate excess energy under well-measured experimental conditions, as well as nuclear byproducts such as tritium and Helium-4.

They've also identified the experimental regime that is needed to reproduce these results, and can point to exactly why previous attempts to reproduce the phenomenon have failed. Basically, the experimental conditions are specific and lots of things will stop the reaction. You can only use certain materials to construct the reactor vessel (because anything else will poison the reaction), the hydrogen loading has to be more than 87%, and so on and so on. Just throwing things together and trying it won't work.

They also have aspects that they haven't figured out yet: the reaction seems to oscillate, and the Palladium has to undergo some sort of initiation (an internal rearrangement of some type) that can sometimes take weeks to saturate.

SRI is not a crank institute, so it would seem that there is some interesting physics going on, and (if you believe them) that cold fusion is real.

Comment Some 2600 hacks... (Score 4, Interesting) 249

(in the jolly days before digital switching)

Friend was diagnosed with cancer and was recovering from chemo in New Jersey some 1500 miles away. She ran a local ballet company for 30 years and it was to be the first time she had ever been away for their Spring performance. I was sound technician at the theater and we cooked up a scheme to telecast the performance to her. There were a several payphones outside, and I grabbed my butt-set and discovered their pairs appeared in the basement. I put a temporary jumper from one across to an unused pair of the theater's Bell 1A2 key system so it would appear up in the sound booth, put a single line phone on it with a simple phone patch (just a 600 ohm transformer, resistor and capacitor) to an output from the mixing board. A co-conspirator drove 30 miles to the house in New Jersey in which she was staying to install another phone patch into a good Hi-Fi amp and speakers. That night just before the performance I hung an 'out of order' sign on the payphone and we dialed an 800 number in the payphone line from the booth and Blue Box 2600/MF'd the call over to the New Jersey house, and patched in. During the performance one of the dance instructors sat in the house whispering into a microphone with commentary on what the dancers were doing, which went into the private mix. Cost of call: $0. It was all in place and ready minutes before the performance began, a real high-five moment because we came up with the idea to do it three hours before.

Also lots of explore sessions which I'd do from an empty conference room at the University because there were two phones there and dial-9 local toll restriction was so easy to bypass (it was 'supervised', inject quick local digits before telco dial tone). One call I made in stages: into New Jersey (Atlantic path) -> France -> Tokyo -> Hawaii -> local number (knowing it would return via Pacific path), then finally ringing the extension of the phone next to it. Literally a call manually routed around the world. Quality was awful, my 'Hello' was audible bit it sounded like 'helawk' some 2+ seconds later.

Also various random numbers to confused persons in Moscow, in Cold War days before USSR direct dial was permitted from the USA. So you bounce through France. Bouncing between UK/France a couple times then back home was loud, echo-y and strange sounding, the Brits liked their trunks piping hot.

Comment Re:Crowd fund it (Score 1) 182

[CORRECTED LINK to ARTICLE, 150 comments]
Ask Slashdot: Best Payloads For Asteroid Diverter/Killer Mission?

TheRealHocusLocus writes:

The Emergency Asteroid Defence Project has launched a crowdfunded IndieGoGo campaign to help produce a set of working blueprints for a two-stage HAIV, or Hypervelocity Asteroid Intercept Vehicle. This HAIV paper (PDF) describes the use of a leading kinetic impactor to make a crater --- a following nuclear warhead would detonate in the crater for maximum energy transfer. The plans would be available for philanthropists to bring to prototype stage, while your friendly local nuclear weapon state supplies the warhead. This may be a best-fit solution. But just ask Morgan Freeman: these strategies could fail. What --- if any --- backup strategy could be integrated into an HAIV mission as a fail-safe in case the primary fails? Here is a review of strategies (some fanciful, few deployable) if we have to divert an asteroid with very short lead time. A gentle landing on the object may not be feasible, and we must rely on things that push hard or go boom. For example: detonating nearby to ablate surface materials and create recoil in the direction we wish to nudge. Also, with multiple warheads and precise timing, would it be possible to create a "shaped" nuclear explosion in space?

Comment Re:Crowd fund it (Score 1) 182

Use Kickstarter or another crowd funding to make it work. 450 mil is a bit steep though.

Been there, done that. Despite two month of press releases and a reasonable well-documented deliverable (plans for HAIV mission payload vehicle), a panel of international experts willing to donate their own time, a mere $200,000 target to help with other expenses, even a Slashdot article to promote it, should I even mention cool items (the shoulder patches arrived today)...

Only 187 human beings (2 were me) from planet Earth put in a grand total of $8,834 towards their $200k goal.
May we now have a moment of silence to consider this.

[... ... ... ...]
[Hissssssss...... BANG!]

What a mess. Glowing iridescent rings of exposed mantle like the hollow eye sockets of a ghost. Each one the eye of a hurricane of steam and worse things. Now if this was your planet, you would be feeling unpleasant tingles working up and down your spine right now just to look at them. Or even to hear me describe them. If there are no tingles you haven't given it enough thought. Thousand-foot tsunamis towards the coasts (it's an ocean impact). Molten fragments are setting prairie and forest ablaze a thousand miles away. When it burns out night will fall early. The next Winter will last dozens of years. It is merciful when dark clouds roll over everything at the end. Final curtain.

Good thing we took that 'statistical cost-benefit analysis' approach to heart. Makes it easier to bear.
If survival would be ZERO, cost-benefit analysis is as pointless as dividing by ZERO.

Comment Condensing the article and sentiment behind it (Score 1) 182

"[extinction 50% of species events] Every 100,000,000 years or so on average..."
NOPE. They happen when your odds come up.
"we know city-killer events happen at least every few millennia..."
NOPE. They happen when your odds come up.
"Tunguska-level events... may happen as frequently as once per century..."
NOPE. They happen when your odds come up.
"City-killer asteroids...will be incredibly rare: only occurring once every 100,000 years or so."
NOPE. Hey I thought you said 'every few millennia'! But NOPE. They happen when your odds come up.
"Species-ending strikes...all human life on Earth...every 100,000,000 years or so
Shucks I thought we'd be in the top 50%.
Anyway, NOPE. They happen when your odds come up.

There's a reason that not everyone likes to gamble. None of us should want to gamble with these risks.
They invoke morality in the form of responsibility to one's children.
Once you learn of an existential risk it is immoral to deny it exists.
Immoral to take one single step back from a position of being able to better deal with the risk.
Waiting is not a step forward. Because time is passing, it is a step back.
Waiting is gambling.

There might be many here who'd toss a million-to-one die for some immediate benefit vs. the off-chance of their own death.
(But truly) how many of those people would toss that million-to-one die if the payoff was theirs but the death would be their child?
How many might boast they could do so with no hesitation... but then... back out at the last moment? (It's okay)
That's one toss. How about once a day, or year?
It's happening. By reading and knowing about this risk you are playing the game right now. It's real.

These arguments that attempt to make existential risks subject to sports-book rules, frankly, make me want to puke from anger! Part of me is wondering, why aren't we throwing stones at these people, jeering at them?

We've known that the sky could be dangerous for hundreds, if not thousands of years. We've had space travel for 50.
Does NASA have anything better to do than get rockets into space again?
Better to do than delivering science payloads to comets and other bodies?
Better than ensuring the standard rocket could accommodate heavier. say, an asteroid countermeasures package?
Better than refining systems and procedures so launches could occur with as little as several weeks' notice?

Comment Re:What's the rationalization? (Score 2) 447

The reason for keeping weapons such as knives out of schools (or anywhere else) is to reduce the chance of fights escalating and becoming deadly.

While keeping knives and guns out of schools *might* reduce the chances of fights becoming deadly, it increases the number of fights overall.

Bullying happens. Subject certain kids to constant harassment with no recourse and no way out, and you get Columbine.

What are you proposing, teenager open carry in school to deter bullying?

Obviously, because that's the smart person's conclusion.

I would never consider addressing bullying by other means.

In comparison to letting teens carry weapons, all the other options seem kind of... silly?

(And for the record, why do I have to propose a solution anyway? Don't social scientists and psychologists read this board?)

Comment What's the rationalization? (Score 1) 447

The reason for keeping weapons such as knives out of schools (or anywhere else) is to reduce the chance of fights escalating and becoming deadly.

While keeping knives and guns out of schools *might* reduce the chances of fights becoming deadly, it increases the number of fights overall.

Bullying happens. Subject certain kids to constant harassment with no recourse and no way out, and you get Columbine.

Comment Re: First Pest! (Score 4, Funny) 54

C: I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. 'E's dead, that's what's wrong with it!
O: No, no, 'e's uh,...he's resting. Powered off I mean.
C: Look, matey, I if me mum canna call me at night the phone is deaad. I know a dead phone when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.
O: Well, he's...he's, ah...probably pining for the fjords.
C: PININ' for the FJORDS?!?!?!? What kind of talk is that?, look, why did he turn 'imself off the moment I got 'im home?
O: No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'! Remarkable display and feaatures idn'it, ay? Beautiful plumage!
C: The features don't enter into it. It goes dead.
O: Nononono, no, no! 'E's just off is all. Such a dimwit h'ta come in to the store to learn how ts turn a phone on? Gaaarsh.

Comment How Sony and Apple dumbed down the human race. (Score 1) 326

Once upon a time there was this thing called High Fidelity, and it wasn't just about sound quality. It also involved a certain level of expectation consumers placed on consumer products, standard features, lines that engineers dare not cross. Throughout the era of magnetic tape -- from giant reel-to-reels and cart machines used by broadcasters to the successful and long-lived boom box cassette, no one would have dared to introduce a product that could not record.

There were just too many reasons in those days why people would want to record their own sound. From children recording the family opening presents on Christmas morning ("open this first!") to playing 'radio announcer', making simple start-stop 'mix' tapes from favorite radio stations, recording lectures, meetings or conferences, even phone calls (remember the suction cup induction coil?), it was a staple of childhood and adulthood that at several key stages in life, for whatever reason, we would rely on these devices to capture and play back voices, acoustic music for entertainment or transcription. The AGC circuit and built-in electret condenser microphone were perfected through the the 70s and were standard on every portable tape system. As quality improved the only real feature tier was whether the device could record in stereo, and whether it could accept line inputs. But mono/AGC recording was a standard feature.

Then around 1980, things began to improve --- but also take a turn for the worse. The Walkman series was marketed aggressively with the promise of improved fidelity and portability, and in that initial design, a gambit:how would the consumer react to a playback-only device? A small measure of additional engineering, some re-tooling at modest cost, could have placed a 'record' button on the Walkman too. There was risk. But they had decided to play a new game, and undoubtedly some argued that the demand record capability, where it existed, would result in the purchase of an additional full-featured recorder. The gambit paid off. The playback Walkman became very popular, even to the point of becoming a high demand fashion accessory among the youth. I loved audio and gadgets but was never tempted to get a Walkman, its lack of record capability made it a damaged product and seeing it become popular made me uneasy in ways I can only describe now.

And so it was that for a great many households on countless Christmas mornings, a brain-damaged by design Walkman was unwrapped and in place of that second present --- the 10-pack of blank cassettes ("Open this one next!")... there was a half dozen pre-recorded music cassettes selected by the parents (at $10 a pop) that weren't quite what the kids wanted to hear, but never mind, they'll soon be spending their own money for more. Walkmans were expensive. No real cassette recorder under the tree this year. And so a record of the voices of the family on Christmas morning became a thing of the past, and as has happened many times in this era of "progress", something that was possible in the past was no longer in the present.

By slow and painful degrees, as popular read-only portable sound devices and the pre-recorded music to play on them sapped peoples' money, recording became the provenance of non-portable cassette decks owned by those serious money to spend. And along the way, collateral damage was done as the average person 'lost' the ability to, on impulse, record voices or music or the spaces around them. Wouldn't it be bizarre if you could point to a period in history where people, modern literate people, stopped carrying around pen and paper, stopped writing things down as they had before? In which a certain cultural forgetfulness arose? That is how I feel about the practical 'loss' of our ability to record cassettes.

And so it was some twenty years later when Apple hit the second and third round of iPod design. Apple had none of the excuses, and was taking none of the risks that Sony had taken by capping off the recordable tape era with the Walkman. They were marketing to kids of kids who in the 80s had never really known what it meant to be able to talk to yourself (via playback), record one's surroundings, gatherings of friends. If there was the tiniest bit of will there would have been a way: circuits all on a chip, microphones tiny, microprocessor more than capable for continuous mp3 streaming. Digital Recorders did exist in this 'enlightened' era --- as expensive 'niche' devices marketed specifically for dictation and transcription by students and professionals. Priced beyond kids.

The iPod was priced beyond kids' reach too, just as the Walkman had been years before. But there is no limit to the power of persuasion and doting parents, so any 'sell' was possible once it, like the Walkman, had become a fashion accessory. The first iPod was indeed a miracle of miniaturization and performance. But by the second generation recording was possible --- *if* you purchased an additional accessory and intended to navigate the feature to record 'voice memos'. What followed, by my quick read, were years of 3rd party products and clip on accessories, and the device's refusal to stream directly to mp3 at any bitrate despite upgrades in processor capability. In short, record capability as a sloppily executed engineering afterthought with menu-navigating monkey work. For sound capture your cheapest cassette recorder from the 70s and 80s with it's one touch record that captures a room full of voices with AGC... beats the usability crap out of iPod nano.

Smartphones have once again placed one-touch sound recording into the hands of every day people, but again, at a dear price. Many manufacturers cannot get it through their thick heads that people might want to record sound and not video. And while the CCD/lens technology steadily improves and the condenser microphones used today are best-of-breed, the microphone is typically placed behind a pinhole without an even microscopic piece of rubber that might have reduced finger-on-device noise, with a directional characteristic that makes it useless for general recording. Yes I know, bluetooth to the rescue! But when I consider what might have been the features that consumers demand by default, and not this gambit play of "what can we shave off next"... I wonder whether the future will bring us to 'peak HD' and then, with some future 'Walkman' decision, not an increase in feature or fidelity, but a steady decline (for less cost and increased margin) until kids are using bleeding-edge technology --- that delivers the same sound and visual experience as Edison's gramophone and kinetoscope --- while thinking it's new and cool. Not even realizing that their grandparents had better.

Comment TIL WTF is a "slider" and now I cannot unlearn it. (Score 1) 257

[from the study, Investigating the Relationship between Food Pairings and Plate Waste from Elementary School Lunches]
[...] Pre-implementation, deli sliders were the least popular entree, whereas the sunbutter sandwich was the least
[...] the pairing of deli sliders with corn on the cob resulted in the highest combined plate waste (62.5%),"

I suppose deep down I knew all along, but it only took a few minutes of research to discover my intuition had been correct... but it also has laid upon me a curse. Now with quivering quill I set down my humble experience in the hope that you, dear reader, will also be thus affected and we may all share this burden.

Through modern history people had been concerned with furniture sliders, devices that allow household items to reconfigure themselves during earthquakes. But we are now seeing an alarming trend in the use of "slider" applied to food items. I will refer to this phenomenon as Gullet Fixation.

The food industry recognizes that desire for food, even purchase and acceptance of it does not assure ultimate success. For them the actual moment of consumer commitment, if such could be said to exist in a single place and point in time, occurs when the food item is poised on the back of the tongue and the tongue folds gently, pushing the item back onto the lubricated slope leading down the throat. This is a handy paradigm, which does not rhyme with pigeon, with which we can dispense with the aesthetic trappings of presentation and digestion altogether, focusing on a that single moment of gullet-commitment.

On the supply side food item manufacture has become a continuous model of liquefaction and compaction, forming and molding, where food is reduced to its constituent parts and rebuilt in familiar industrial shapes people identify as "food". With gullet fixation we can streamline this model visually by omitting people altogether --- and depict the final objective as the passage of the item through "the gullet" --- a soft pink tube several inches long.

Use of "satisfied customer" stock photography in advertising and slide presentation has created a crisis of politically correctness diversity, where embattled presenters strive to sift through stock photography, often in vain, to find that 'perfect mix' of race, gender and age that is calculated to least offend. Transition to a standard 'pink gullet model' encompass the whole species and would eliminate this crisis.

I also propose a gullet view that is lengthwise, seen as a tube, and not the end-wise representation currently used where tonsils are visible. For presentations these gullets could be stitched together and elongated, even folded into longer spans such as intestines are shown today, to clearly communicate statistics of consumption or consumer acceptance by their length.

For years, the "food slider" was a term confined to the oyster. Now it has leaked into the mainstream to describe small food items that resemble traditionally larger food items, perfect in every detail, that are sized to fit within the gullet. Selling sliders can be profitable... for example, cheesburger sliders have the highest bread-to-product ratio.

Oysters were the first "sliders", so-named because their slippery surface provided its own lubrication. Now that the term has gained popular acceptance there is no need for the manufacturer to provide it --- and this creates an exciting up-sell opportunity for retailers. Sliders can be pre-lubricated with our patented Spray-Oyster Systems (tm), by the use of a simple pump sprayer right up to bulk delivery conveyor solutions.

Drive-thru speaker: Welcome to ___ may I take your order.
Customer: I'd like a dozen pizza, dozen cheeseburger, dozen salad bar. All sliders.
Drive-thru speaker: Sir... for $1.50 more we can pre-lubricate them, with a free drink.
Custiomer [imagining the mortal terror of something stuck in throat]: Uh, yeah, sure.

Cha-ching! Sliders mean business. This ain't your grandma's stick-in-the-throat soda cracker.

Comment Re:Apropos of nothing... (Score 1, Insightful) 471

Yeah, cool analogy. But bad analogy.

Unfortunately, this discussion is being fought on the field of emotion, and not with facts or analysis.

A swarm of angry taxi drivers are littering the discussion with "fukin' law-breakers" comments, so I have to tap into the big stores of emotional reserve to have any effect.

You're right, of course. It was a cheap shot, but an easy one. :-)

Comment Re:An argument (Score 2, Interesting) 471

that is a fallacious argument. You have incorrectly associated an individuals right to civil disobedience with the rights of a company. A company is not a citizen and as such it cannot commit civil disobedience. The world would be a very bad place if companies got to decide on laws, companies don't have the individual consequences associated with civil disobedience.


So by that logic, the New York Times shouldn't have published the Pentagon Papers, and the Guardian shouldn't have published Edward Snowden's revelations.

Both of which were classified at the time.

"Free markets select for winning solutions." -- Eric S. Raymond